How did Internet Explorer become the number one browser in the world? Simple – it came with every new computer you purchased, pre-installed and ready to go. Now it seems Google is contemplating doing the same with their browser, Google Chrome. According to Google VP, Product Management, Sundar Pichai, the browser’s beta period will end in January and then they “will probably do distribution deals,” he says.
In an article that ran in yesterday’s The Times, Pichai revealed details on what he called Google’s plans to make Chrome the browser of choice for the everyday user. A big part of that plan includes distribution deals with computer manufacturers.
“We could work with an OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) and have them ship computers with Chrome pre-installed,” he was quoted as saying. Thanks to the anti-trust rulings that came out of the IE / Netscape battle back in the 1990’s, there’s nothing to prevent Google from doing deals of their own with computer makers, if they desire.
Once Google has a glitch-free version of Chrome sometime early next year, “we will throw our weight behind it,” said Pinchai. “We’ve been conservative because its still in beta, but once we get it out of beta we will work hard at getting the word out, promoting to users, and marketing will be a part of that.” (A link on Google’s homepage might help with those marketing efforts, but not as much as we previously thought).
Pichai also noted that versions of Chrome for Linux and Mac computers will become available in the first half of next year which would allow the browser to work on almost 99% of computers worldwide.
Is It Ready?
Just because Google whips off the “beta” label (perhaps making Chrome one of the first products to leave beta with such speed) that doesn’t necessarily mean the browser is ready for prime time.
Shortly after its launch, a serious security flaw was discovered in the browser. The exploit took advantage of an underlying vulnerability in WebKit that had already been known about for more than two months. Apple had patched their Safari browser against this flaw back in July, but Google Chrome launched in September with the flaw still in place. Google’s overlooking of this risk is concerning.
Also, for some Windows users, it wasn’t until the most recent update the scroll-up functionality on their laptop’s trackpad even worked (this author was affected and was pinged by several Twitter friends that were, too). And even now Chrome is misbehaving on a pre-beta build of Windows 7. Googling from the address bar no longer works since the upgrade on my test machine.
Before the product goes gold, we at ReadWriteWeb would like to see the browser add support for RSS feeds, a surprising omission in the feature set. As fans of Google Reader, we had hoped to see deeper integration with other Google products in Chrome, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. Subscribing via the browser doesn’t even work, let alone allow us to subscribe via Google’s own RSS Reader.
Still, these problems may only be a patch or two away from being repaired. Hopefully, Google wouldn’t release their browser before it’s ready, especially if they plan on promoting it so heavily among mainstream computer users, many of whom have already switched over to Firefox and seem to be happy with their selection. For these individuals, Firefox addons are now also a major part of the browsing experience – will people willingly give those up and move to Chrome? We suppose we’ll just have to wait and see.